THE Philippines will not consider suspending interest payments on its debt obligations despite the rising costs of keeping the economy afloat amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said on Tuesday.

“Debt moratorium has not crossed our mind. It was never entertained or will ever be a part of our crisis response measures,” Mr. Dominguez said in a statement.

“[The country] cannot wish away our obligations at this critical time when the reliability of our word secures our economy’s capacity to bounce back once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”

He said the country still has “more favorable” options to fund its emergency response against COVID-19 and recovery programs, turning down a senator’s suggestion that the country should impose a moratorium on its debt obligations and instead, use the allotted funds for the virus response.

Senator Maria Imelda Josefa R. Marcos earlier said the government should consider suspending its debt interest payments, and use the P451 billion allocation as additional cash aid.

Under the 2020 national budget, the government has a total debt service bill of P1.033 trillion. This includes P582.088 billion for principal amortization and P450.964 billion for interest payments.

The government has so far mobilized P1.17 trillion worth of fiscal and monetary measures to fight the pandemic and provide relief to the hardest hit sectors of society. This includes a P205-billion emergency subsidy program for 18 million low-income households suffering amid the Luzon-wide lockdown. — B.M.Laforga